Princess Stéphanie of Belgium

Princess Stéphanie of Belgium

Princess Stéphanie of Belgium ( _fr. Stéphanie Clotilde Louise Herminie Marie Charlotte, _nl. Stefanie Clotilde Louise Hermine Marie Charlotte, (21 May, 1864 – 23 August, 1945) was the wife of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria. She was the daughter of King Leopold II of Belgium and his wife, Archduchess Marie Henriette of Austria, and was born at the Royal Castle in Laeken. Her grandfather had been Belgian's first king and her aunt was Empress of Mexico.

Crown Princess of Austria

Under pressure from his parents to marry, Rudolf, heir to the imperial throne of Austria-Hungary, arrived in Brussels on 5 March 1880 to spend time with Stéphanie. He announced their engagement a mere two days later. However, the wedding had to be postponed because the bride had not yet reached puberty.

On 10 May, 1881, when she was almost seventeen, she married Crown Prince Rudolf in the St. Augustine's Church in Vienna. Among the illustrious attendees were the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and his nephew, the future German Emperor Wilhelm II.

Although her parents-in-law, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and Empress Elisabeth, the former Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria, did not consider her particularly bright, others considered Stéphanie sensible, very observant, patient and distinguished. Stéphanie enjoyed performing her imperial duties and attending the many ceremonial and court functions that Elisabeth hated to attend, thus earning her Franz Joseph's approval and appreciation.

After an initially happy marriage, difficulties soon developed between them. Rudolf was highly intelligent, unconventional, impulsive and very liberal, while Stéphanie was conventional, formal and reactionary. Their only child, Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria, was born at Laxenburg Castle on 2 September 1883. She was known within the family as Erzsi.

She received little support from the Imperial family during her marriage. Empress Elisabeth avoided Stéphanie, referring to her as 'das hässliche Trampeltier' (the ugly clumsy oaf), 'a moral heavyweight' and an 'ugly elephant'. When Rudolf infected her with a venereal disease, which made further pregnancies impossible, they even talked about divorce.

During a visit to Galicia (presently, a region divided between Poland and Ukraine) in 1887, Stéphanie fell in love with a Polish Count. During the next eighteen months, she did not try to hide her affections for the count from her husband who continued his own liaisons.

Austrian astronomer Johann Palisa named asteroid 220 Stephania after Stéphanie in 1881.

Death of Rudolf

In 1889 Rudolf was found dead at Mayerling, with his mistress, the seventeen-year-old Baroness Mary Vetsera, apparently the result of a suicide pact. Her husband's death destroyed Stéphanie's hopes for a happier future, as the scandal resulting from his death and her widowhood isolated her even further from the court in Vienna. She also had a bad relationship with her own father, Leopold II of Belgium, and had to fight him in court for her inheritance.

To distract herself she undertook many journeys, using different names, like Countess Lacroma, Eppan or Godrecourt and even Lady Bonchurch.

On 22 March 1900 at Miramare, Italy (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), to the disgust of her father, Stéphanie married Count Elemér Lónyay de Nagy-Lónya et Vásáros-Namény (Bodrog-Olaszi, 24 August, 1863 - Budapest, 20 July, 1946), a Hungarian count of low rank who, in 1917, was elevated by the Emperor of Austria to the rank of "Fürst" (prince).

Stéphanie settled with her new husband in his castle, Oroszvar - Rusovce, in western Hungary today's Slovakia, until the advancing Red Army forced them to flee their estate. They found sanctuary in the Benedictine abbey of Pannonhalma, near Györszentmarton, Hungary.

In 1935 she wanted to publish her memoirs to set the record straight, but this caused a scandal and a court forbade their distribution. These memoirs were eventually published outside of Austria under the title "Ich Sollte Kaiserin Werden" ("I Was To Be Empress").

, had four children:

* Prince Franz Joseph of Windisch-Grätz,
* Prince Ernst of Windisch-Grätz,
* Prince Rudolph of Windisch-Grätz and
* Princess Stephanie of Windisch-Grätz.

Titles and styles

Here are the primary titles and styles that Stéphanie enjoyed from birth to death in chronological order:

* "Her Royal Highness" Princess Stéphanie of Belgium (1864-1881)
* "Her Imperial and Royal Highness" The Crown Princess of Austria (1881-1889)
* "Her Imperial and Royal Highness" The Dowager Crown Princess of Austria (1889-1900)
* "Her Royal Highness" Princess Stéphanie, Countess Lónyai (1900-1917)
* "Her Royal Highness" Princess Stéphanie, Princess Lónyai of Nagy-Lónya (1917-1945)

Additionally, Stéphanie was born with the titles of Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess of Saxony. During her marriage to Rudolf, she was also the Crown Princess of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia. After his death she retained the title of Archduchess of Austria until her marriage to Count Lonyai.


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1= 1. Princess Stephanie of Belgium
2= 2. Leopold II of Belgium
3= 3. Marie Henriette of Austria
4= 4. Leopold I of Belgium
5= 5. Marie-Louise of France
6= 6. Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary
7= 7. Duchess Maria Dorothea of Württemberg
8= 8. Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
9= 9. Augusta Reuss-Ebersdorf
10= 10. Louis-Philippe of France
11= 11. Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies
12= 12. Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor
13= 13. Maria Louisa of Spain
14= 14. Duke Louis of Württemberg
15= 15. Princess Henriette of Nassau-Weilburg (1780-1857)
16= 16. Ernest Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
17= 17. Duchess Sophia Antonia of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
18= 18. Heinrich XXIV, Count of Reuss-Ebersdorf
19= 19. Karoline Ernestine of Erbach-Schönberg
20= 20. Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
21= 21. Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon-Penthièvre
22= 22. Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies
23= 23. Maria Carolina of Austria
24= 24. Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
25= 25. Maria Theresa of Austria
26= 26. Charles III of Spain
27= 27. Maria Amalia of Saxony
28= 28. Frederick II Eugene, Duke of Württemberg
29= 29. Sophia Dorothea of Brandenburg-Schwedt
30= 30. Charles Christian, Prince of Nassau-Weilburg
31= 31. Princess Carolina of Orange-Nassau

Portrayal on stage

*Kenneth MacMillan's 1978 ballet, "Mayerling"

ee also

* Lake Stefanie
* Stephanie's Astrapia
* Astrapia

External links

* [ Royal House of Belgium]
* [ Imperial House of Austria]

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